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In memory of Flyin' Black Jackson
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579292 No. 579292 ID: db8fed

In this city, you can be anyone.

But many would kill to be you.
Expand all images
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No. 579293 ID: db8fed
File 140316146551.png - (28.58KB , 800x600 , 1.png )
579293

The latest in fashion is the identity crisis. A never ending hangover of neon and latest technology. Bleeding edge ran out of blood pretty fast. Cut me, and I leak the newest and best in rapid repairing fluid-based transport systems for the modern consumer. All rights reserved, trademarked, patented, catalogued, mass produced, sold in bulk.

I can't remember what I looked like yesterday. Or who I was. I scroll through my past few personas while taking in my surroundings. Huh. Worthless junk everywhere. How nostalgic.

My most recent working name is Hunter. Overused, but that's how it goes. Nothing more anonymous than a name everyone uses. And in my line of work, anonymity is the only way to stay alive.

I'd like to say there's some people who value me for my talents, but more want me dead.
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No. 579294 ID: db8fed
File 140316147334.png - (47.60KB , 800x600 , 2.png )
579294

Well, it's another starless, heaving night. Better get to seeing who tried to dump me in the trash and leave me for dead.

First, have to ditch this face.
>>
No. 579295 ID: db8fed
File 140316148569.png - (16.35KB , 800x600 , 3.png )
579295

There. Back in business.

In this city, you can replace anything you want. Your limbs, your organs, your name, your memories, your skills, your history if you have the connections. Information and identity are a commodity. But you have to deal with people wanting to be special. Unique. One of a kind.

If you want to be someone else, sometimes you don't want that reminder of your lack of creativity. Or maybe you don't like what you see around you. Maybe you want to be someone more interesting.

That's my line of work. I take names, features, anything the highest bidder wants from any of their target. I started out as an informant, and now this is what I do. It isn't glamorous work.

No one knows who they are anymore, but they know who they don't want to be. They're sick of themselves. Sick of living with their regrets and failures. So the richer citizens, they just hire schmucks like me to go steal someone else's life for them. Someone successful, popular, anything. It doesn't matter. They'll fuck up again, and then back to step one.

It's a lucrative business, really. A cripplingly depressingly lucrative business.

Doesn't matter. I'm not in this for the benefit of society.
>>
No. 579296 ID: db8fed
File 140316149908.png - (37.80KB , 800x600 , 4.png )
579296

GGNNKKRRRRR

Ah. Scrap metal compactor. Not just a scrapheap, then. That's a problem. Someone really wanted me out of the picture. I must have fucked up. Especially given as I don't remember how this happened. I must have really fucked up for someone to break into my head too.

Well, I can see no real way out of this situation. Except the sky. Not much of a climber, far as I know--

[ Hey, Hunter. Got your call. On my way to collect. Hope you got the goods, or you're on schedule to be a cube in ten minutes. ]

That ain't cool. I can't get work looking like avant garde furniture.

Welp, I can stick about here to see this mystery contact, or I can try figuring out a way to escape.
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No. 579299 ID: ac14c0

>>579296
What's your gear? Any way of figuring out what the goods are your contact wants?

How high up would you need to climb? Keep in mind the climbing gets easier the more compact the trash gets. Ten minutes seems like a pretty good amount of time to climb out of most trash compactors.
>>
No. 579302 ID: 9ddf68

and how do you know that the message is from the guy who through you down here? My suggestion, get the fuck out of here first and then worry about potential jobs. Just find a pile of junk that looks more sturdy then the rest and use that to move on up and hopefully out.
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No. 579345 ID: 50338d

>Not much of a climber, far as I know--
Even if you can't fake the skills from nothing, couldn't you reshape your body to something more naturally suited to climbing?

>wait, or climb
Why not both? You can try climbing, and if that doesn't work, hope the client lets you out. And if you get out, there's no reason you can't wait around to see who this client is.
>>
No. 579349 ID: e1609c

>>579345
Yeah man, you're a shapeshifter. Unless you have some dumb limitation like "I can't give myself extra limbs" or something awful like that let's make ourselves into a mountain goat and hop-bleat our way out of this pile of garbage.
>>
No. 579418 ID: 09a2b2

How big is this thing anyway?
Since it isn't enclosed, it's probably worth piling up scrap to form a mound to stand on.
Start with heavy blocky stuff first, since it will more than likely get pushed along the floor instead of getting rolled when the rams hit it.
Also, what limitations do you have on modifications to yourself?
Limbs are out of the question but being able to grip a surface easier or find handholds might be useful if you want to go with the climbing route.
>>
No. 579425 ID: 37aa84

Best not to wait around. You probably got yourself caught stealing whatever that client is expecting and they wouldn't have left it on you if they managed to catch you.
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No. 579460 ID: 289a68

Stack all the stuff up into a pile! Look up at the edge and see if there's anything you can catch your coat on and pull yourself over the edge. Then stack that way.
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No. 579485 ID: f4ea0d
File 140323201685.png - (35.85KB , 800x600 , 5.png )
579485

>gear

Just myself, apparently. Used to have a multipurpose tool that let me get data on anything I pointed it at. Worked as a rudimentary hacking tool if I wanted as well, same as carrying around a terminal would but with a much fiddlier input system. No sign of it anywhere.

>goods

It could be anything, and it probably isn't tangible.

>shapeshifting

Not quite how it works. Smart matter is good, but it isn't magic. It can't create or destroy itself, and intricate structures or anything that has to be structurally specific isn't something that can be done on the fly. At an appropriate clinic, it can be done fast, but I don't have the parts to fabricate new limbs and shove them into myself.

Besides. It's technically illegal to modify oneself without updating official records and-- yeah, pretty sure I broke that law years ago, let's make this skin a little more adhesive. Regular uniform microstructure patterns not so much of a problem. Done. Well, I'm not going to be able to take this jacket off any time soon now.

>climb

You know, I might as well give it a shot. Up we go.
>>
No. 579486 ID: f4ea0d
File 140323202683.png - (16.42KB , 800x600 , 6.png )
579486

Well, what do you know. Scrap's been sitting around so long it's rusted into a single solid chunk. Not hard to climb at all!

Plus, the setae on my fingers are making things a little easier.

I stand as lord of the garbage dump and survey my new demense. Nothing worth salvaging that I can see, but I'm not so desperate to start rummaging through this junk anyway. If I turn the other way, I can see the city proper.

[ Fuck, Hunter, keep your head down! You don't know who else is around this part of town at night. ]

I crouch down and break radio silence.
[ Funny. Didn't think this much of a place for moonlit walks. ]
[ Good place for people to disappear, Hunter. You scared the fuck out of me suggesting it as a rendezvous point. Remember? I thought you were going to kill me after I paid you or something. ]
[ No, that ain't me. Also, who is this? ]
[ Me? I never gave you my name. You know that, right? ]
[ Smart plan. Just testing you. Second question: what do you want from me? ]
[ What's going on? Why are you asking me this? ]
[ Why were you threatening to let me get crushed? ]
[ Damn, Hunter, you really have no sense of humour! I just wanted that list of people attending that exhibition tomorrow night, remember? What the fuck happened for you to be so on edge? You were chill when you took the job! ]
[ Look. I took your job. We aren't friends. Don't make that mistake. Stay out of my life and I'll stay out of yours. ]
[ Is... is that a threat? ]
[ It's a promise. ]
[ You have no idea who I am, do you? ]


I cut the connection. I clamber down from my perch on garbage mountain and head out.
>>
No. 579487 ID: f4ea0d
File 140323203866.png - (24.85KB , 800x600 , 7.png )
579487

I look through my recently stored data collections and find a list of names. I recognise a few. Some of them are movers and shakers. Only took the job because I thought it'd be simple.

Simple jobs don't get you thrown in the junkyard missing a day's worth of memories.

"Hey."

I hear thunder, and a light rain falls, almost invisible. Something is following me.

"Hey. Hunter." It sounds hesitant. It is either a good actor, or afraid of me.
"Do I know you?" I ask emptily. Not many people around, and exactly one person who would have reason to talk to me instead of throwing me back in the trash compactor.
"I'm here for the name list."
"What's it worth?"
"Ten K."

With a thought, the transaction initiates. I receive an immediate receipt of ten thousand zees going into my anonymous account and a confirmation of the list transfer.

Ten thousand zees. I could buy myself a small house with that kind of money. For a list of names? I've been paid less for outright assassination. Something's not right.
>>
No. 579488 ID: f4ea0d
File 140323204841.png - (16.67KB , 800x600 , 8.png )
579488

"Thanks."

I keep walking.

"I said, uh, thanks."
"I heard."
"You okay?"
"What's it to you?"

They don't respond, and follow me nervously. I clear my throat. "If you're tailing me for a reason, you could at least be subtle about it."

They pause. "C-can we talk somewhere else? There's this restaurant that's open late and it's not too far from here actually. Drinks on me."
>>
No. 579489 ID: e1609c

>>579488
Fuck it, why not? Other than it could be a trap, she could be sizing up to kill you, etc etc.
Really though, let's go for it.
>>
No. 579493 ID: 289a68

Well, it's worth a shot. Maybe we'll find out what kind of thing all this money is about. If it turns out she's rich it won't hurt to make friends and see if she needs anything else. Plus, cute.
>>
No. 579495 ID: ac14c0

>>579488
Is it possible to modify someone's memories? What if you aren't Hunter?
>>
No. 579500 ID: 55c4cf

Take her by the collar and whisper something smooth in her ear.
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No. 579502 ID: 61da19

tell her she's super cute
>>
No. 579503 ID: ca0da5

>>579500
>>579502
>>579489
>>579493
So, like, what. "You know, normally I wouldn't agree to this, but you're cute, so I will"? That just sounds plain creepy.
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No. 579507 ID: 50338d

You don't have much to lose by agreeing. It's certainly no more dangerous than whatever got you wiped.

And she had contact with you during your missing day. And she massively over-payed for that list. Admit it, you want to follow those breadcrumbs. See what other clues there are.

Give a taciturn, one-word answering, agreeing.
>>
No. 579614 ID: 289a68

>>579500
By the way be careful with those setae if you do anything like this, considering how well they're sticking to your clothes.
>>
No. 579645 ID: 9ddf68

"...is this another job or something else? If it's a job sure I'll hear you out but that doesn't mean I'm going to take it, not without hearing it first. If it's something else... note I'm having a bad day but if you really think I need to hear it then fine. But remember I'm having a bad day and if I don't like where you're going with whatever it is you want I will walk out."
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No. 580742 ID: f0a5e4

She's a lead. Doesn't look like much of one, but a lead is a lead.
A day is gone. Anything could have happened and anything is bad. She doesn't act like a professional, but it could be a ruse. We have no idea who she is, but her interest in the exhibition could be anything from wetwork to personal involvement with an attendee, so keep your guard up.
>>
No. 580826 ID: e73b69

Go with her and try to get in her pants even if she's not wearing any.
>>
No. 582220 ID: f4ea0d
File 140420330212.png - (17.14KB , 800x600 , 9.png )
582220

>cute

Whatever.

>take her by the collar
>whisper
>get in her pants

No.

>what if you aren't you

Fuck this line of thought. That stops right here, right now. I'm me, end of. Duplicate, modified, it doesn't matter. The second you falter, the second you start doubting, you become one of them. Freewheeling through life without a grip on reality. I'm Hunter. Someone else can decide what Hunter means.

>go for it
>she's a lead
>taciturn response

I should follow this road. Wherever it goes might be worth it if I get answers.

"Sure."
"Great! Follow me."

Ten minutes later, we arrive at a restaurant, totally deserted. Less a restaurant, more of a diner. Prefab. Cheap. Totally automated. People cost too much these days. Only the ritzy places can afford real personnel. This far from the city centre, this is as good as we're going to get.
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No. 582221 ID: f4ea0d
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582221

I look over a menu, but I'm not too bothered. Amnesia doesn't give me much of an appetite. One other patron is here. They're keeping to themselves.

"So, uh, what do you, uh, want?"
"Lytic surprise."
"What?"
"Just ask for it. If the vendor doesn't recognise it, tell them it's under address AE76BC, and then ask for it again."
"I... okay."

She walks over to the vendor while I look her up in the city networks.

I'm interrupted. An encrypted messsage bursts into my sensory array. I can't identify the source, and the voice is unfamiliar. I scan the premises. Nothing.

[ Hunter. You never could let a lead go. Surprised you haven't gotten yourself killed yet. ] [ What do you want from me? ] [ Now, now. I don't want anything from you. ] [ Okay. Well, then. Why are you talking to me? ] [ So you gave her the list of attendee names for that upcoming art exhibition, presumably. There's been a change of plans. She needs to get into that exhibition directly, but her name isn't on that list. ] [ What a shame. ] [ We'll double your earnings if you can get her name on that list. Any means necessary. Obviously, if you get caught, none of us were here. ]
>>
No. 582222 ID: f4ea0d
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582222

Ten K for a name list? Twenty for changing it? The task isn't trivial, but it isn't worth twenty K. There's an elephant in this room the size of a moon.

[ Why so much? ] [ Think of it more as an incentive to treat this as your number one priority. We want this done ASAP with little distraction from other clients. We know you're a very, very busy person, and we doubt you're going to lose twenty thousand by not taking other work. ] [ Who's funding this? ] [ A benefactor. ] [ How specific. I just want to make sure I'm not busily tying a noose to hang myself with here. ] [ If you want answers, put yourself on that list too. This is going to be an event that will be spoken of for years to come. Perhaps you had best see it yourself. ] [ I don't go to public events. ] [ Suit yourself. ]

I still can't find the source of the voice. The other patron's just an invader, they might as well be mute.
"I can't take this anymore. I can't."

[ That list of names included a memory hacker, you know. One you were with yesterday. So, before I leave, interested in this job? ]
[ How do you know? ]
[ Word gets around. Can't name my source, standard business. So, is that a yes? ]
[ You know how to sell. Alright. I'll do it. ]
[ Great. ]

The link goes dead.
>>
No. 582223 ID: f4ea0d
File 140420333401.png - (24.29KB , 800x600 , 12.png )
582223

I look over to my mystery companion, who returns with a fizzing purple mixture in a glass. "On me. Don't worry, I can afford it."
"I'm sure you can."
"Eh?"
"Nothing. Thanks. Can I get a handle, by the way?"
"Oh. Uh. Call me, um, uh, I dunno. Liz."

I down the cocktail in one gulp. I put the glass down. "Sure, Liz."

Lytic surprise is named because it is a terrible surprise to anyone who first drinks it. No one would willingly serve it, but automated vendors will dispense it if the security can be bypassed. This model of vendor is basic and crude. I know the full access address by heart.

It is something no sane person would willingly ingest. It has a deleterious effect upon the modern smart-matter chassis many people call their body. It causes arbitrary fractures and rapid decomposition in a wholly unpredictable but nonlethal fashion. If you drink it, it's like drinking lye. It'll burn right through you. It frequently causes limbs to arbitrarily fall off of the drinker. It is the subject of a lot of very, very stupid dares, bets, and drinking games.

This is if you aren't expecting it. If you are, you can control its effect a little more.

I don't have much of an onboard assembling system to make myself a new tool after losing my old one, but I keep a spare in the base of my tail. It's the whole reason I have one. Tails are prominent enough that no one questions them. A strange hump in the back or front looks conspicuous, and compromising my limb structure is too risky.
>>
No. 582224 ID: f4ea0d
File 140420334732.png - (19.86KB , 800x600 , 13.png )
582224

So, within seconds after swigging the worst drink this city knows that isn't actively fatal, my tail falls off, and I quickly retrieve my spare multitool.

"Uh, did your tail just--"
"It does that." I stash the tool within an interior pocket of my jacket. "No need to worry." The tail stays behind. Some poor bastard'll probably make better use of the material than I can right now.

I leave. I know where to head. The exhibition is in Square AC9, 'Dusk Showers'. Estimate time of arrival twenty minutes by foot. So named because the sky and weather has been jammed for almost a full two years now. No one wanted to change it. People who liked the environment moved in, and vice versa. More specifically, the exhibition is on floor 97 of the Zephyr Building, one of several needlessly tall and boxy buildings designed by architects who, given total creative freedom, decided to build something mundane as though conventional material and limitations were still relevant.

Within two minutes we are interrupted by an invader approaching us with what I presume to be a weapon.

"Stand there. Do not attempt escape. Your property is now forfeit. Deliver."

I hear Liz sigh and mutter something under her breath. I roll my eyes.

Some context may be in order, I gather.
>>
No. 582225 ID: f4ea0d
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582225

The city has never been invaded successfully. It has never been conquered. It has never been razed, it has never been destroyed in part, and every single one of its issues stems from internal failure.

The city has been a target for invasion before. Sometimes things haul themselves untold lightyears and spy this isolated gem on an otherwise mostly wasted planet, and for some reason do not interpret this as a sign that something is wrong. Many ships have done this. Drawn closer, until something about the situation rattles them and away they flee, far far away. Sometimes it doesn't happen until there's clear audio signal. Sometimes someone on the ship will tentatively poke the pervasive network choking the air around us, and learn with dread horror the reasons and secrets of the city.

Sometimes they're either too stupid or too reckless to know what they're getting themselves into.

Sometimes they're smart. Sometimes they try to bomb the city, or use stronger calibre weapons, but there's a reason this city's stood when nothing else has. The defenses are automated, ancient, and as sharptoothed now as the day they were made. It retaliates with weaponised smart-matter, capable of adapting into whatever it needs to be to cause the most damage. Usually self-replicating machines that eat the ships and their contents to death. And they're very, very easy to provoke. Even nuking the city from orbit causes celestial fireworks of horrific beauty, raw space being torn apart in a bid to serve the one function they ever had -- defend at all costs.

We don't get much in the way of visitors or traders because it's hard to visit or tour when you're a wafting breeze of hydrogen.

But land invasions end up worse. It is hard to kill a thing made of smart-matter. But the city does not react in the ways they expect. We care about our identity because that is all there is to care about. Our needs are met, our fights with invaders are over before we know they exist, the world is mapped and effectively conquered, and very few people have any urge to explore the stars now. All the ones that did are long gone. The past is forgotten and the future seems to be much the same, so the now is all that matters.

This is an alien mindset to something that considers invasion an activity worth dying for. A city both immortal and dying, forever. A city both protean and stagnant. A city filled with ancient people acting like children as they prune their memories into amusing topiary shapes.

The city eats them.

It'd be kinder if it killed them, but the digestion process is long and slow. They linger. Their ships are gone. Their command structure is in disarray. They want to go home. They attack the residents but no one even seems to care. It's nicer if they do care - retaliation is swift and fatal. The justice system in this city does not even consider their existence. No one really does. They turn to more and more desperation to get basic resources in a city that doesn't even hate them. Hate implies there is something worth caring about. They're animate scenery to be walked over if it's in the way.
>>
No. 582226 ID: f4ea0d
File 140420337544.png - (14.83KB , 800x600 , 15.png )
582226

I fold my arms. "Step aside." Most people wouldn't dignify an invader with conversation.
"No. I will not step aside. I will not step aside!! Listen to me! I will kill you if you don't give me everything you own!!"
"Have fun with that," I say, and maintain my stance. Liz just walks on past.
"NO! STOP!"

The invader shoots Liz. The glancing blow to her shoulder burns her dress and skin a little, and she looks pained for the split second it takes for her to turn off her pain reception in that area.

She sighs, turns, and rips the weapon out of the invader's hand, and breaks it in two.

In the city, even the weakest citizen is made of stronger material than the technology invaders consider to be their finest.

She drops it on the ground without a word, and keeps walking. The invader stares at its broken weapon. It stares at me angrily.

"THAT WAS ALL I HAD LEFT! ALL I HAD LEFT OF HOME! YOU STUPID, INSANE CREATURES! I'LL KILL EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU!"

I continue standing, partly curious to see how this thing intends to back up its claim. It keeps watching me. Then it looks off to the side, avoiding my unrelenting glare.

"All I had left... all I had..."

It is painful to wait this long for this thing to continue thinking with its slow neural pathways.

"You're all machines! You're all just stupid machines! Machines can be broken! Why don't you die?! Why don't you break?!"

I idly consider waiting around to listen to where this is going. Liz stares at me further down the road as if I'm mad. Maybe I am. Maybe I should go catch up.

Maybe I could entertain myself and humour this thing. Act terrified, give it one minute when it feels in control. I'm making good time. It wouldn't be very professional on my behalf, but to be honest, part of me pities it.
>>
No. 582227 ID: dc9b7e

it sounds like the invaders cannot make any success without the intervention of you or anyone else. and even then honest intentions will probably be ultimately prevented by the city. if you can fool or delude it, that seems to be the only recourse aside from terminating their conscious grip on existence. plainly offer the invader those options
>>
No. 582228 ID: 2fd516

>>582226
Hang on. She took you to the restaurant to talk, but you just left after drinking instead of talking, and she's walking ahead of you. She's in control; she sent that message you heard in the restaurant. This is a long con, and you're falling for it. ...and did that alien pull out a weapon to shoot Liz after it was already brandishing one?

Tell it you're already broken.
>>
No. 582237 ID: 9ddf68

I find it odd that you got a message right when she walks away. Now coincidence it may be but the fact that the caller knew that you not only handed off the list but where with the client now means that either this lady is more then she lets on or that someone is watching you. Nether is appealing.

as for your friend... don't really think dicking with him would be a good idea unless you want to be a dick. just point out that it's item is still there even if it's broken and the reason that none of you (the locals) can brake is because in order for a machine to brake it needs a purpose and in this city nothing has a purpose, the machines are are just good at faking one... and the not so good ones just hire someone to fake a purpose for them.
>>
No. 582265 ID: 513b21

So if invaders are desperate for basic resources and ignored by nearly everyone, would it be possible to bribe them with said resources to spy for you?
>>
No. 582312 ID: 6570f5

>>582265
It should be possible...
Though that will probably draw ALL of them to you, even if you convince this one to be quiet about it.
Also He will want to come back after the job is done to get more himself.
In any case, at least later on or in the far future things won't stay on a low profile around you, if you choose to be their supplier at least once...
>>
No. 582352 ID: dc4b80

Using invaders as a hobo spy network sounds appealing. Plus its something new in a place that never changes. Might be entertaining.
>>
No. 586910 ID: 61959d

>>582352
>>
No. 586911 ID: 61959d

>>586910
(thumbs up)
>>
No. 586912 ID: 61959d

>>586910
>>586911
sorry keyboards acting up again...
>>
No. 591093 ID: 761017

With that level of technology, there must be someone who converts or uploads invaders into some virtual reservation space or a new body. I wonder how easy that would be for you to pull off?

What prevents invaders from being made into citizens?

Mess with him, glue his gun back together and hand it back.
>>
No. 591258 ID: 100639

>>591093
It does seem that as undesirable and impotent as they are in the general scheme of things, someone would have caught on already to the fact that they are completely ignored by most people. You'd think that some one would've started to abuse and manipulate, or at least assimilate them at this point. Or, perhaps scientific progress has stagnated to the point where adapting tech to their alien physiologies is just too much work for too little gain.
Either way, it's a totally untapped market.
...and, if you have any desire to gain a karma point or two, you would be giving the guy a hand. He's literally, figuratively, and metaphorically from another world entirely. These guys are totally fucked if nothing changes for them.
>>
No. 591281 ID: 697427

Screw the art exhibition. Somebody just handed you enough money to buy a house, and somebody tried to kill you, and somebody messed with your memories. Possibly these are all the same person, or close allies of each other. Maybe it's a perfectly legitimate weird situation, in which case you've gotten lucky and are now hilariously rich from the fruit of (effectively) a few minutes' work. Maybe it's a con, in which case by walking away now you will not only have gotten lucky as above, but also survived to see another day.

Quit the game for a while. Patch up the pathetic offworld trinket with the local equivalent of duct tape and chewing gum, almost certainly exceeding the original spec, then spend that 10k on an actual house. Maybe some crummy little place in the suburbs, and keep the change for yourself. Let this invader pretend to be in charge of said house, like an ant farm.
>>
No. 591386 ID: ccd544

The alien is not important, there are more where he came from!

For now we still have a mission, and someone who will perma-kill us if we don't go through with it!
>>
No. 634853 ID: 57f0ac
File 142922945729.png - (18.15KB , 800x600 , 16.png )
634853

>you're already broken

I doubt the invader would understand the nuance of that statement.

>offer invader death

No need. If it wanted it, it'd push harder than this.

>bribe invader to spy

They're functionally useless in this city. How can you ask someone to spy when they have no capacity for recognising what deviant behaviour is, when they struggle to understand what the societal norms are? The more interesting things to look out for they lack the hardware to even sense. They're leftovers from one dead invasion or another, flawed meat sacks in a city of machine demigods.

No, I won't waste my time asking it to report back such thrilling events as "someone changed their appearance" or "someone seems to be hiding something." No shit. Everyone is. It'd cost me more time to train this thing to know what to report back then to just do my own damn job.

It has scooped up one of the shards of its broken weapon, shaking. ...I can't help but feel some sympathy anyway. This city breaks something you love sooner or later.

I give the invader a chit worth 30 Z's in silence. The invader takes it warily, and stares back to its wrecked possession. I don't wait for a response and catch up to Liz.
>>
No. 634854 ID: 57f0ac
File 142922947463.png - (10.52KB , 800x600 , 17.png )
634854

>just left after drinking
>she's walking ahead of you

...Why did I not pick up on this?! I'm getting rusty. Starting to think I lost more than just a day of memories here.

There is no possible reason she could have to be going to the exact same place I am unless she's either been told to go there by someone else, or--

>she sent that message
>you got that message when she walked away

Fuck.

Fuck!!

"Hey, Liz," I say as I catch up to her.
"Yeah?"
"So, you wanted to talk?"
"...Yeah?"
"Why didn't we talk in the restaurant?"
"What do you mean?"
"You got me that drink and then we left."

She's quiet. I continue. "You seem to know where I'm going."
"Well, I mean, this road just goes on like this, right? I thought you were just heading straight on."
"We just passed a turning."
"Whoops! Do we need to take it?"
"No. You knew we didn't need to take it."
"Hey, what's with this sudden aggression? So I got a little impatient! You're pretty paranoid, even for your line of work, Hunter."
"I'm missing a day of my memories and I don't even know what else. Of course I'm paranoid. Literally anyone I come across could be responsible for this. I haven't ruled myself out yet either."
>>
No. 634855 ID: 57f0ac
File 142922948651.png - (11.06KB , 800x600 , 18.png )
634855

"Well, good job we're going to go find that out, then, right?"
"Great job."
"What?"
"I never told you anything about what I was doing. I'm out. I'm not walking into an obvious trap."

She pauses, and her expression rapidly changes from one of shock to irritation. "Fuck."
"Well, it wasn't like I trusted you that highly to begin with."

She stares into the night sky. I don't know if this district ever sees the sun. Plenty of eternal nights in this city, and fewer eternal days.

"Yeah, no point hiding it. I never was very good at this sort of thing. I gave you the job back there."
"Why not just ask me directly?"
"Didn't know who was listening in."
"What, the invader? It was too busy crying into its plate to give a damn about us."
"No, it's not that. I don't really want to go into too much detail, it'll set off their alerts, and then they'll be listening for sure."
>>
No. 634856 ID: 57f0ac
File 142922950353.png - (120.40KB , 800x600 , 19.png )
634856

"Who are you, Liz?"
"Hunter, of all people, I thought you knew better than to ask your clients that."
"Why do you need me?"
"Because you've seen how well I can play a role."
"And what is with this exhibition?"
"There's people there that stole something incredibly dear to me. I want you to steal it back."
"What did they steal?"
"Two things. My original name, and a revelation."

Now I think I can see why this job is worth so much money.

"Ah. I don't deal in revelations."
"It's more like a memory. I know your line of work. Memories are integral to identity, so don't claim you don't deal in those, either."
"I'm not exactly specialised in that field. You want a memory hacker."
"Well, that shouldn't be a problem. I am one."

She smiles.

I've seen that smile before.

"--click of the trigger, that's it, gone--"
>>
No. 634857 ID: 57f0ac
File 142922951518.png - (17.21KB , 800x600 , 20.png )
634857

"Incidentally, I was commissioned to target a certain, specific identity hunter. One they figured was both competent and motivated enough to cause problems. Had to remove enough memory to send them on a wild chase during the exhibition. So they wouldn't cause any upsets, you see. Why they commissioned someone with a grudge, I have no idea."

She smiles even wider. "Guess it was a case of mistaken identity. Someone must have forgot who I was. What a shame."

"Give me my memories back now, and we won't have to do things we'll regret."
"I'm sorry, I don't even have access to them. It was strictly a no-copy deal, and they were delivered to the client exactly as requested. You're an identity thief, or hunter, or whatever you prefer to call yourself. You know how this goes."
"So, rather conveniently for you, the same people with my memories are the same people with your name and your 'revelation'. And you want my help to get all of it back."
"Yeah."
"Thanks for the lead. You're really fucking bad at this. Goodbye."

I leave. She shouts after me.

"Wait! You have every right to hate me, but if you go there alone, you're not coming back."
"I'm not working with you. You're the last person in this city I'd consider working with right now."
"Look. I don't have what I took from you. But I was with you that day. I can give you that much."

I'd be an idiot to agree.

Am I going to be an idiot today?
>>
No. 634866 ID: d3be40

>>634857
You tell me.

Listen to her story, but be ready to delete the entire data-log if you think that it's a misleading con.
>>
No. 634872 ID: 296917

>>634856
Why do you remember that? She's either not very good at her job, or she purposefully left that memory in. Either way you should not associate yourself with her.

Plus, if the both of you went to the exhibition, it would be immediately obvious something was up. Well, unless the both of you went there as people that would not be recognized.

Just about the only way you could trust her is if she left in another memory that is actually useful to you.
>>
No. 634899 ID: 5db52c

>Am I going to be an idiot today?
You've already been one. Might as well keep going.

If nothing else, she's got a skillset and information you could use, and you've got a great deal of leverage over her. She needs you more than you need her. She wants her name and revelation back more than you want a day.

That puts you in control, here, if you use it. Surely that's worth something, in a world where you're constantly moving at the whim of anonymous contracts.
>>
No. 634936 ID: 9ddf68

...so they either took away her competence with the other two things or she has to be new at these. I can not see someone this green lasting long in this line of work. Granted she did manage to get inside your mind and take a day away from you so she's got something going on but it could have just been luck, good luck for her and bad luck for you.

But as for you idiot question, instead answer this, do you want to keep her where you can keep an eye on her or do you want risk letting her roam free? Cause the way I see it, if you ditch her you'll be free to move around more freely but depending on what she does she could follow you making it harder for you to blend in, tell the people she sold your day to so they'll be on the lookout for you, or try to do this by herself which could help or hurt our mission depending on how she tries and do things. If you keep her close you can at least make sure she doesn't fuck up although from the looks of things you're going to be baby siting more or less.

Or hell, random paranoia thought, she wants to spend time around you to learn how you work so she can take YOUR life for herself. I mean you got the skills, you seem to have a good rep for yourself, and the both of you are technically in the same line of work just with different specialties. Why spend all that time building up your own rep when it's so much quicker to just take someone else's?
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No. 638138 ID: a1cdb3
File 143077728483.png - (18.70KB , 800x600 , 21.png )
638138

>listen to story but be ready to delete it
Eh. Storage isn't a concern. Might be good for a laugh to count just how many holes the story has later.

>why do you remember her
It's foggy. Definitely longer ago than yesterday. Might not even be her. Someone she took the face of? Someone took her face? Who knows. Everything is so unstable it could just be a meaningless recollection of an outdated state of the city.

>you'd both be recognised
I wouldn't. I have enough sense not to wear the same face everywhere I go.

>she needs you more than you need her
>better to keep an eye on her than have her mess things up later
...hrmph. Yes, wherever she's pulling her funds from, she has plenty of them, and she isn't shying away from spending everything she has access to. I could quit this business forever. Do something less risky.

>maybe she's aiming to take your identity
I doubt she has the capacity to pull it off. It's hard to fake being this desperate.

"Okay. Hit me. What happened? ...put that away."

Liz is holding something that looks suspiciously familiar. A little larger than I recall. Less like a trinket and more like a tool to be used. A hijack tool. A staple tool in the memory hacker's arsenal. Bypasses most mental security and gives direct read and write access to the target's innermost thoughts. Opens up the brain wider than a gunshot to the skull.
>>
No. 638139 ID: a1cdb3
File 143077729409.png - (32.05KB , 800x600 , 22.png )
638139

"What? Am I supposed to put memories in your head with a chisel? I'm not telepathic, Hunter--"
"No. Talk like a normal person. Tell me what happened. I'm not letting you fire that anywhere near me. Do you take me for a total idiot or what's going on here?"
"Could have done this in a second," she says, putting the tool away. "Fine. Here's the summary. You and I were on assignment together. Had to steal that name list. At the last moment I got an order in private from our employer to wipe the memories of everyone involved. Except something must have been fucked up. There's holes in my memory that could only be more obviously my own work if they were signed. I guess I hacked myself, but why I'd do that I have no idea. Normally I at least leave myself a little summary when I need to do that."
"Here's a tip. Don't tell people how you edit your own memories. Never do that. That just opens you up for someone pretending to be you. Sure that isn't it?"
"Hunter, I've got a system of checks and symbols that probably count as a unique language by this point. I'm not new at this. If I was new at this, what does that say about you? No, I didn't track down some rookie identity hunter. Let's get this straight. We're both good at what we do, and this is the only possible reason this plan can work."
"I remember you. That smile you had earlier. I've seen it before. Kind of an entry level mistake to not clean up properly."

Liz looks confused. "Huh. That's subtle. That can't have been from yesterday. Must have... no, I didn't work with you before then. Weird. Course, if we'd met before now, I wouldn't have a clue, would I, master of disguise that you are. Small world. Oh well."
"The plan."
"The plan. Yes. AC9's this way. Keep walking."
>>
No. 638140 ID: a1cdb3
File 143077730648.png - (69.72KB , 800x600 , 23.png )
638140

"The exhibition. It's tomorrow afternoon, actually, but there's one last piece of the puzzle I need to get before we can get the answers we both want. There's an upscale hotel reservation in my name across from the exhibition. Nice place. Room for four at a push, or two very comfortably. Cost a fortune. The room is next to my next target. We need to head there."
"Right. Nice and inconspicuous. No one could possibly suspect the room next door with the two shady characters at all."
"Isn't your entire career based on not looking shady when you need to?"
"I'm good, Liz, not a miracle worker. I can't make you any less of a disaster."
"The reservation is in my name. They're expecting me to show up. You need to be someone else. I need to stay me."
"Okay, so your plan to go against forces you haven't really told me anything about is to go check into a hotel."
"Yes."
"Is this related to getting your name on the exhibition list?"
"What do you think my next target is? The room I booked is next to one of the organiser's. I have a good feeling we can get write access to the list that way. We have a few options, but I'll let you come up with whatever you think is best."
"The last time I followed a mystery woman I didn't know to a hotel room for a job I woke up with limbs missing. On a barge. That was sinking."

Liz sighs loudly. "What can I do to get you to trust me?"
"I don't make a habit of trusting people.
"So, hotel?"
"Can't go there looking like this. First, I need a new face. Then, new outfit."
"Try to look at least moderately wealthy. I know this dress isn't amazing, but it doesn't scream memory hacker, and that's all I want, really."

New face. New face. The problem isn't lack of options. The total opposite. I can make myself look like almost anything and if it stays vaguely bipedal it just would look like an eccentric bored member of the social elite trying out a new approach to morphological style. Of course, anything too strange is going to make my life harder with the higher scrutiny. Humanoid seems wise.

Shedding any extra mass with my tail gone right now would just be wasting resources without a sound reason. Gaining extra mass will be harder. I might need to go back and salvage whatever is left of my tail, but it'll grow back overnight if I get a chance to eat. And if we're heading to some fancy hotel in Dusk Showers, there'll be food at some point.

Hmm. We're getting close. I can feel warm rain start to fall. Who am I going to be?
>>
No. 638149 ID: 9ddf68

hmm, as for what to turn into I'd have to suggest something... plain...ish. Something that would be easily forgettable but not so forgettable that it becomes suspicious. I guess something that won't make you stand out in a crowd but distinct enough to be at least somewhat memorable.

As for clothes go fancy. Don't overdo it or anything but try to look the part of an elite.
>>
No. 638365 ID: ec0bf5

I say you should go full secretary bird. If anyone tries to pull anything on you, you can kick 'em. It's also distinctive enough that if you drop it later it would probably throw people off. Plus, you're going to a fancy party. You need to look fashionable.
>>
No. 638368 ID: 79940c

Turn into a chick! They'd never expect that!

You've been a brown spiky lizard, and a green smooth lizard. Time for something other than a lizard.
>>
No. 638467 ID: 57d76a

>>638368
Probably doesn't make much difference in this society, but the more points of difference I guess. Although I do feel like it makes you less incongruous paired with her, dunno why though.

If Liz isn't going to be changing as much,you may want to be a bit more noticeable than you'd normally like to distract from her. I'd say make yourself deliberately ugly, but that might attract some real attention. I dunno though. Do something a bit asymmetrical. An eyepatch or something. Or one ear floppy one up. Something like that.
>>
No. 638704 ID: 69db10
File 143095307889.png - (35.38KB , 800x600 , 24.png )
638704

>female

Been a while. Might walk a little funny with the mass and proportional changes, but that'd happen for anything more than just superficial.

>secretarybird
Image download complete.

Hm. Feathery. Airy. Gears are turning. Okay, I've got it. I'll fill in some of the gaps. Wings aren't practical, I'll copy the leg concepts to the arms. With suitably varied proportions.

>conspicuous but not distracting

Heterochromia. Stupid hat. I think those two together should make me stick out more than Liz, and eye colour's subtle enough that it should leave an impression with people I meet without calling the entire room to me. Which is what the hat can be for. And a hat can go missing at any time when it's convenient. Better put some more smarts into the hat in case it's too flashy or needs to be flashier, I'll recycle my jacket's smarts into the hat. The rest of my outfit, dumb fabric. I'd love an autoloom for this, but, well, I need to find somewhere quiet to change form, stripping isn't going to be any worse.

"I need to find a place to change."
"Well, there's an alleyway. No cameras, someone else got to them, looks like. Be quick."

How dismal. Oh well. Can't be choosy.

Begin.
>>
No. 638706 ID: 69db10
File 143095313943.png - (30.33KB , 800x600 , 25.png )
638706

Who am I right now?

I'm going to an artistic exhibition along with someone entirely non-descript and who I absolutely do not know is a memory hacker. We'll work on Liz's alibi later.

I am an artist. I wasn't confident enough in my recent work to try entering the exhibition, so I'm just visiting along with a wealthy and secretive member of the social elite. That part might actually be true. Still, this rich lady is responsible for my ticket to this event, where I want to see what other artists have done for the sake of my own inspiration.

As a result of my lack of familiarity with richer society, I am less likely to be challenged over social faux pas and perceived rudeness at the cost of condescension and being dismissed as unimportant. Other artists might be more interested in me. More specifically, they will want to discuss their art. They will likely be interested in whatever I'm working on. Improvisation will be key at that point. Pre-planning that won't be useful.

Names. I'm going by the name of Bir and as an ongoing project have legally changed my name to simply just Bir. Okay, that could be suspect, but I've known people to do stranger things, and it made imitating them much, much harder. Trying to steal the identity of someone who doesn't believe in proof of identity, ugh. Whatever. Irrelevant.

Body. Ugh, this feels disorienting. Attractive, but not ridiculous. Young but not childish. Somewhere 20s to 30s. Outfit. Revealing? Conservative? Let's tend towards the scandalous. I'm an artist seeking to challenge social norms of identity and general convention in my work, having hit a dry spell of inspiration. Okay, but let's not overdo it. Too far and I'm screaming "uncreative identity hunter is trying to use what they know a little too transparently".

Okay. Here. I'm done. Goodbye, Hunter. Hello, Bir. Agent chip rewritten.

...

Where did the mass for these feathers come from and where did my clothes-- oh. Oh fuck. I forgot to get rid of my setae. The jacket must have been so firmly stuck to me my systems considered it body mass. Well. This is inconvenient.
>>
No. 638708 ID: 69db10
File 143095315335.png - (79.67KB , 800x600 , 26.png )
638708

I leave the alley. Liz looks past me, then blinks, and stares.

"Uh."
"Work in progress. Had to process my outfit for material. Look up a clothes store in Dawn Showers."
"Never mind. Not like nudity's banned in this district. Nice eyes."
"They reflect my troubled inner artistic soul."
"Oh. You're going with that angle, are you."
"Hey. The only people that go to these things are artists and the rich, and you're the one with the stack of zees."

Liz looks at my chest. "Yeah, I'm the one with the stack. Anyway, are we done? Can we go to the hotel yet?"
"Well, I'm not sure. I sure would love to linger around this empty street in a city square that never sees daylight."
"Hotel, then. Also, I hope you're going to try and sound a little different."
"Hey, being a sarcastic wiseass is not a trait unique to Hunter."
"No, but it's a shared one."
"I can take that risk."
"Okay, whatever."

We walk down to Dusk Showers.

As we walk down the road, the rain dies down to a drizzle. Ahead, I can see--

I can see city enforcers. The law of the city. They look like they're setting up some sort of security checkpoint further down this road with rapidly self-assembling barricades. I suppose the rain intensity was dialled down for maximum visibility. If the rain was turned off entirely, that might provoke a fair bit of unwanted discontent from the residents of this district.

Basic primer on the law of the city-- actually, no, forget that. Basic primer on what'll happen here is what's important. They'll ask for a suspect to provide some proof of identity. My agent chip is fine for basic proof of identity in most circumstances, but it'll flag as suspicious the second an enforcer so much as glances at it. And I don't have a bunch of fake IDs on me at the moment, nor do I have the tools to make them. As far as not providing any proof of identity, well, you can imagine how suspicious that is.

Also, given how easily the citizens of the city can change their appearance, everyone's a suspect until identified otherwise.

Hm.

And if we look for another route that avoids the security checkpoint, well, that's almost waving a giant flag that says YES, WE'RE CRIMINALS, WE'VE BROKEN SEVERAL LAWS. Which, I should probably mention, as part of our careers, we very much have. My data tool and Liz's hijacker aren't exactly legal items, either.

Liz is trailing behind me now. It's clear she's expecting me to do the talking for both of us. Great.

Well, at least they're not paying much attention to us at the moment. They appear preoccupied with setting up their blockade with alarming efficiency. Plenty of time to think of a way to not appear suspicious or otherwise consider our approach.
>>
No. 638711 ID: ec0bf5

How well do enforcers take to bribery? You mentioned that Liz has access to lots of money. On the other hand if they have integrity we'll need to do something clever. You've mentioned that you've run into people who don't believe in proof of identity; is that something that would do anything other than get you arrested? You'd certainly get searched, so that's probably out.

If the only reason that you can't just take another route is because they see you coming towards them, maybe you could just walk into a nearby store as if that had been your plan all along, then sneak out a back door?
>>
No. 638741 ID: 79940c

Why do people like the rain?

>>638706
So I guess instead of a distracting hat we're going with distracting nudity? I suppose that works.

>>638708
Hmm. Your ID won't work. We don't have tools to make a false one.

How real-time can memory hacking be done in? If you talk / distract them (an easy role, in your current form), can Liz jedi mind trick them into thinking the two of your showed valid ID? (I suppose the police here might have precautions against that. Also, hard to do two at once).

Could we give them something else to distract them? They might stop caring if they think they found what they were looking for. Ie, we sabotage the legit ID of someone in the crowd so it seems fake, and they become the center of attention until the police figure out it's a false lead. Give them a scapegoat.

I'm not seeing an immediate angle where we just talk out way though. Unless for some reason they're liable to ignore naked prostitutes.
>>
No. 638854 ID: 8f01e8

Can you just, like, detour into a random building and mug whoever you find inside for legit-looking papers? "Dad, I'm changing my name to Bir and moving out to do art full-time." Then Liz zaps the chump to believe he's always had a daughter. Grab his ID, show it to the cops, they call him and confirm, you explain to them that you were on your way to get the other paperwork done.
>>
No. 638861 ID: 9ddf68

don't think we can talk our way through unless these guys aren't really trying to work and are just trying to look busy, but since I highly doubt that I think you're going to need to find some way to distract them so you can either slip by or slip away. Anything nearby for to work with, shops for the two of you to detour in real quick without seeming suspicious, any people near the two of you we could use as scapegoats, what do we have to work with here?
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No. 639063 ID: 2a7417

Two words: Ca-caw. (Or maybe that's just one word, with a hyphen in it. I don't know. Whatever.) If we can convince them that we're so dedicated to our bird transformation that we cannot speak the common language any more they'll get frustrated trying to harass us for ID. Assuming she is also sort on second lives, Liz can be our one-lizard entourage that drums up our image as 'ze very famouse BIR, avian avant garde.'
>>
No. 643457 ID: 1d157d

Could you add more speech tags, or use a color-coding system to note who's speaking? It can be a little hard to follow in long stretches.
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